Chron perplexed by teachers who want to teach at good schools

It must be tough to be an idealist and then be constantly disappointed in your fellow man:

Fuller's research, using data from the 2003-04 school year, the latest available, examined seven school districts in the Houston region. He found that the teachers with the best credentials work in the schools with the most affluent students, and the less-qualified instructors teach in schools populated by low-income students. This matters because of another correlation students who attend schools where the worst teachers predominate tend to perform poorly on standardized tests.

[snip]

Obviously, some inspired and skillful teachers teach in poor-performing schools. They tackle the most challenging assignments and endure the worst working conditions. Their students tend to have poorly educated parents less able to help them with homework.

Many poor children lack school supplies and suffer from poor nutrition. When discipline at school becomes an issue, it can be difficult to get parents working multiple jobs to focus on finding a solution.

The problem is how to attract and retain good teachers at the schools that desperately need them. There are only so many excellent teachers who will remain in under-resourced schools. They deserve merit bonuses and a medal.

Education experts say that incentive pay for teaching in less-desirable schools can be part of the solution. Those schools also need to provide adequate training and teaching supplies, enforce student discipline and cultivate a supportive workplace. Schools that provide these things will find that the best teachers will flock to them and stay put once on board.

A lack of school supplies doesn't explain the problem with California schools, where school supplies are provided by each school. Yep, in California, no student has to provide his or her own school supplies. (I know because when I finally moved out of California, I was confounded by this new requirement to buy school supplies!)

And we taxpayers spend a TON of money on free and reduced-cost breakfasts, lunches, and after-school snacks, nationwide. Poor nutrition can't be that big of an excuse.

However, the editorialists come perilously close to a big problem in poorer schools -- discipline. We have become a nation of wimps and molly-coddlers. The education elite that began running public schools 40-odd years ago changed the focus from learning and discipline, to one of self-esteem. Self-esteem entails not hurting a student's feelings, understanding, excuse-making, creating new realities, etc.

Besides providing a subpar education, an education based upon self-esteem can often be dangerous for teachers! And school administrators are sometimes weak and afraid of activist groups and teachers unions. If a teacher takes a firm-stand, it's not unusual for a school principal to reverse course if there's any adverse media attention.

Of course, what's most ironic about the Chronicle's complaint is that the media has long been a big supporter of progressive educational practices. It's not often we see any media outlet calling for a hard look at the current educational fads that have led to the problem the Chronicle now bemoans.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 07/25/05 10:09 AM | Print |

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